South Sudan marks its first year of independence on Monday, but the celebrations are marked by continued conflict with Sudan and domestic inter-ethnic tensions.
One year into independence, South Sudan has made steps forward in terms of nation-building and building a legal framework, but remains one of the world’s poorest countries. Tensions with Sudan, which the split was meant to end, have not yet been fully resolved.
Landlocked South Sudan, which relies on the infrastructure of the North to export its oil, decided to stop pumping crude barely six months after becoming a state despite it being almost its only source of revenue.
But Juba and Khartoum are talking again, and South Sudan has a set of conditions it wants met before the oil starts flowing again.
Speaking to Al Jazeera, South Sudan’s Minister of Information Barnaba Benhamin said, “Once they give us a good price, guarantee they will not again confiscate our oil, make sure that they will export oil through the Port Sudan terminal… we will open with them the next day.”
Despite the challenges ahead, anniversary congratulations have been sent from around the world.
US President Barack Obama and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said, “Your work to provide security, accountability and systemic respect for human rights is admirable”.
But “conflict and unresolved issues with Sudan and domestic inter-ethnic tensions have led to increased fighting and economic hardship, which threatens to compromise the very foundation on which South Sudan’s future will be built.”
More congratulations were received from Nobel Peace Prize laureate Desmond Tutu who appealed for peace.
The South African former archbishop was speaking to political, military and religious leaders when he stated “God wants to make South Sudan prosperous and peaceful”.
The anniversary festivities got under way by 05:00 GMT at the mausoleum of John Garang, the rebel leader who died in a mysterious helicopter crash shortly after he signed the 2005 peace deal that paved way for South Sudan’s independence.
Among the high-profile guests were UN chief Ban Ki-moon, Africa Union head Jean Ping and political leaders from Kenya, Uganda and Ethiopia.